RCA Theremin Cabinet

Posted: 5/24/2008 3:21:05 PM

From: Wiesbaden, Germany

Joined: 5/22/2008


I'm looking for the dimensions of an RCA Theremin cabinet which has the loudspeaker in the front of the cabinet. Is there anyone who can help me, since I want to build the cabinet for the instrument and a friend of mine will build the electric part?

What I also want to know is, which sort of wood did they use when they built the Theremin and how thick were the wood pieces?
Posted: 5/24/2008 5:36:46 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Oops. Double post.
Posted: 5/24/2008 5:37:17 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Hi Hobby, welcome to Theremin World.

There are people here who know a fair bit about RCAs and might be able to answer your questions, but from a playing point of view having the loudspeaker facing away from you is not ideal. You might consider following Musaire's lead and incorporate a small speaker facing the player as well.

view full size (http://www.flickr.com/photos/8666613@N04/2263366915/in/set-72157603907186727/)
Posted: 5/24/2008 8:43:19 PM

From: Richmond Hill, Georgia

Joined: 9/18/2005

Mike Buffington makes RCA cabinets. The drawings are from Jeff Sparks. Both are referenced on this website.

The wood used was furniture grade mahogany.

You may want to consider checking into Levnet as well. Quite a few builders hang out there.

Philip Neidlinger
Posted: 5/25/2008 6:16:52 AM

From: Wiesbaden, Germany

Joined: 5/22/2008

Thank you GordonC for welcoming me here at Theremin World.

I'm very happy that I found this page so that I can share my new hobby with other people and can get more information about this magnificent instrument.

The idea that the loudspeaker faces to the player is very good. I'm an Organist in Wiesbaden and I know how it is that you don't hear your own playing really good. But I would like to have an external speaker option on the Instrument.

Posted: 5/25/2008 6:22:54 AM

From: Wiesbaden, Germany

Joined: 5/22/2008

hello hypergolic,

thanks for your reply as well. Can you tell me where to find Mike Buffington and Jeff Sparks?
Posted: 5/25/2008 7:36:38 AM

From: Colmar, France

Joined: 12/31/2007

Another "Bienvenu" from Alsace, France "nach Hesse"! ;-)

Some drawings of the original RCA cabinet may be found here (http://www.thereminworld.com/article.asp?id=27).

The electronic part is described in this article (http://www.pavekmuseum.org/theremin/index.html), including theory of operation.

For your first steps on the new instrument I recommend you the 1st movement of the sonata for recorder and basso continuo in g minor from G.F. Händel, which in my (poor amateur) imagination should sound fine played on the theremin with organ accompaniment.
Posted: 5/25/2008 10:53:54 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Thank you for posting the Pavek Museum link - I haven't seen that before. The advertising blurb is a hoot! It's so shouty! I wanted it to end with "Yes! Buy Now At Crazy Al's House Of Theremins. All At Low Low Prices. I'm Crazy Al And I'm Certifiably Insaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaane!"

Also I note on page 7, figure 4 of the manual that probably the only thereminist still using the "correct playing posture" is Dorit Chrysler.

Here is a more recent analysis of the RCA circuitry from theremin builder Art Harrison.


(I expect that Mike or Jeff will be along shortly.)

Posted: 5/25/2008 11:42:39 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

I am here. (I am always here.)

Thierry has already given you the link to the cabinet drawings.

Mr. Buffington has recently brought to our attention that there are likely some differences between the cabinets of RCA theremins produced by GE (General Electric) and Westinghouse. These differences have not yet been clearly defined and documented.

Information I’ve acquired recently on the oscillator chassis has shown that the opening in the front of the cabinet for the controls may or may not be accurate or may not be consistent between the GE and Westinghouse cabinets.

If you are looking for a "RCA style" floor length cabinet, I would think any qualified woodworker / cabinetmaker worth his/her salt can create a floor length cabinet extrapolated from the drawings.

If you are looking for an exact replica of the floor length cabinet, that could be a problem. To my knowledge there are only two or three known to exist, and the only one I am aware of is Samuel Hoffman's theremin now owned by Peter Pringle. I have no information on it and that is unlikely to change.

I will be on vacation (holiday) this week so I will not have access to AutoCAD until I go back to work in June. However, if you would like me to make a drawing for a floor-length cabinet or any modifications to the RCA design for you, I’d be glad to do so. I would have no problem converting the drawings to metric for you. ;-)
Posted: 5/25/2008 4:10:22 PM

From: Brooklyn, New York

Joined: 11/25/2005

HI Hobby, welcome to Theremin World.

As was noted, the Samuel Hoffman RCA is the most classic example of the floor length theremin. His was an RCA put into a custom cabinet. Images and some information can be found here: http://www.peterpringle.com/meethoffman.html

Also, another RCA theremin in a different custom cabinet, with less information can be seen here, after scrolling down to the text "BOB OUSLEY" about 6 black boxes down: http://www.137.com/gallery/#I

The drawings that were linked to are an excellent source, and have helped me greatly with my cabinets. Currently, I am measuring every inch of an original RCA theremin and cross checking these measurements of the cabinets and parts with the help of a few others who also have original RCA theremins made by each of RCA's subcontractors (GE/Westinghouse). I plan to offer these updates and additional information to the author and draftsman of the original drawings to update them if they wish.

If you're doing an RCA style theremin with modifications, then these current drawings are a perfect place to start from. My cabinetry work is mainly for exact replicas for RCA who've lost their original parts.

I am currently making 3 of these cabinets for customers. I can't take any more work currently, but If you would like to contact me, I can be reached at mike at mikebuffington dot net.

Some of my replica work can be found on this thread. http://www.thereminworld.com/forum.asp?cmd=p&T=1504&F=3 I should note that the first cabinet I made was fairly different to an RCA in the details, but looks enough like an replica from just a few feet away.

You must be logged in to post a reply. Please log in or register for a new account.